Sam Long expects a big changing of the guard in elite triathlon in 2022 and has cancelled his Christmas break to ensure he is not left behind.
‘The Big Unit’ described the last few weeks as “demoralising” as he watched Norwegian phenoms Gustav Iden and Kristian Blummenfelt carrying all before them.
Long believes a number of factors have really transformed the sport in the last 18 months. As in many walks of life, elite triathlon is a very different world right now.
Long on Iden and ‘Big Blu’
Speaking in a video on his YouTube channel, he explained: “COVID, the pandemic, the loss of races, the PTO, made this sport more competitive than it’s ever been before, it’s kind of a crazy phenomenon.
“Of course I have to talk about my contemporaries, Gustav Iden and Kristian Blummenfelt from Norway. I got my ass kicked in 70.3 Worlds despite being second, I was three-and-a-half minutes down.
“We’ve seen Blummenfelt won the gold medal, smashed IRONMAN Cozumel and won Daytona as a real celebration lap.
“In 70.3 Worlds, everyone in the top five was right around 25 years of age. The sport’s changed. What I can tell you about myself is I’m probably one of the last very few who started late, who can be successful. I started at 18, all these guys started at like 12 or something crazy.”
Long has been putting in the work as he bids to improve ahead of 2022, but he says that alone will not be enough.
“Hard work doesn’t win any more. It does, but you have to work hard and you have to work smart. You have to build an amazing team, and you have to do everything right. And that’s what the focus is on.”
No Christmas break – just work
While some athletes might be taking their foot off the gas just a little to enjoy a little Christmas downtime, Long will absolutely not be one of them. Watching Iden in Florida and Blummenfelt in Cozumel and Daytona merely provided more motivation.
“To be honest it was a little demoralising being in, resting, sitting around and watching everyone smash things and raise the game. It’s just lit a fire underneath my ass.
“I just cancelled my Christmas break plans, there is no Christmas break this year, there is no time with the holidays, time with the family, it’s about raising my game. And I will not be left behind.
“I don’t wanna face the prospect of never winning a world title because two of the very best guys are the same age as me. And it’s not just them two – we’ve got so many others, so many other young guys. Daniel Bækkegård, I mean Rudy Von Berg, Ben Kanute – they’re still stepping it up.”
Long, as detailed, expects a big change at the business end of elite triathlon next year, and he also believes that being a late starter does have some benefits.
“I think we’re gonna see a big changing of the guard next year and I’m quite looking forward to that so the work begins, the work’s already started.
“I feel completely confident in myself. I started the latest of anyone and I’ve got the biggest improvement curve. So I’m just obsessed with my own improvement, I don’t look at what anyone else does, I don’t really care, we compare ourselves on raceday.”